It’s easy to tell a true fan when you meet one. True fans don’t necessarily parade their colors around town, loudly boasting about their favorite squad’s recent triumph.
When it comes to supporters, many of the most genuine believers are also the quietest. They will speak about sporting events when spoken to about sporting events.
I’ve had many such conversations in my hometown – polite, banal small-talk that only falteringly turns to sports. Suddenly, both parties’ ears perk up.
“Do you watch the World Cup?” I might ask.
“Yes. The neighborhood I’m taking you to, everybody watches World Cup,” they might say.
“Well, good for them.”
“Salah! What do you think of Salah!”
There are many drivers in my city who are partial to Egypt and other football nations from Asia and Africa. I can’t say much about Salah one way or the other apart from his obvious gifts on the pitch, so I offer a safe reply.
“Well, you know, people always compare Salah to Messi or whoever. I think he just needs to be the very best version of himself.”
“Yes, yes. Salah often says this. I am myself. I am not Messi. I am not Ronaldo. I am Salah.”
Indeed. Salah is Salah, and his soccer team is on fire. There’s no need for any of the Reds to be anything but what they are at the moment, winners of 6 out of 7 matches and standing 2nd in the Premier League behind Manchester City. Only goal differential separates the pair of 6-1-0 squads.
In fact, if there’s only a single side who could give Liverpool a real run for its money right now, it’s probably City. Which is why it’s a blessing for supporters, bettors, and yes, Vegas sportsbooks that the 2 clubs are headed for a showdown this Sunday at Anfield.
The odds favor the homestanding Reds, as you might imagine, but not by as much as a squad would be expected having an equal record as their EPL opponent. Liverpool and Manchester City are (Even) on most non-Asian Handicap goal spreads, with a (+100) payoff on City pulling the “upset.” City’s moneyline is consensus (+175) to Liverpool’s (+150), with (+250) or so on most 90+ minute draw moneylines.
Manchester City’s “Sky Blues” are flying high with GK Ederson posting 4 clean sheets in just 7 appearances while the attack strikes from everywhere. Leroy Sané with 2 goals. Argentinian teammate Sergio Agüero besting him with 5 tallies. Raheem Sterling with 4. Defenders like John Stones and Kyle Walker sending dangerous balls into the box.
City midfielders Bernardo and David Silva (no relation, though for some reason no journalist on the internet ever spells that out for newbie fans) each have scored 2 goals. Elsewhere in the midfield is Kevin de Bruyne, though the World Cup superstar is currently on the mend.
Wait, so how did the Sky Blues even draw that lone match? Shouldn’t they have won 7 out of 7 with that kind of All-Star roster? Nothing is ever as easy as it should be in soccer, even for the defending champs. City was frustrated and drawn 1-1 by hosting Wolverhampton back in August, though the squad did manage 3 times as many on-target shots as their opponent and almost 3/4ths of the ball possession in the match.
Liverpool may be unbeaten also in Premier League play, but the Reds have had episodes in other recent competition. A squad of mostly reserves lost to Chelsea 2-1 in the Curacao Cup on 9/26, with Eden Hazard entering and scoring a late winning goal for the Pensioners. The Reds would suffer their only draw against Chelsea just 3 days later on Matchday 7.
A more serious and troubling defeat occurred in Champions League play on Wednesday. Liverpool was soundly beaten by Napoli 1-0 in a fixture in which the Reds played GK Allison, van Dijk on the backline, and Firmino, Salah and Mané up front. The Italians allowed 0 on-target shots and cut through Judgen Klopp’s 4-3-3 for 14 strikes at the proud South American keeper.
Handicapping Matchday 8: Liverpool vs Manchester City
While Manchester City may be prospering more in play outside of the Premier League, the EPL is also its own animal. Matches are unpredictable largely because the pace is so quick, attacking players are encouraged to use their natural ability and find chances to score.
Football, basketball, and ice hockey teams can get physically beaten-up and down-trodden to the point where meaningful chances to turn the tide will not present themselves. That happens to soccer teams too, but the momentum doesn’t always carry over from fixture to fixture. It is more likely that a squad on a roll will continue to play well than it is likely a side coming off a poor, lifeless outing will continue to miss the mark.
In the Premier League, the favorites usually play like favorites. But the underdogs often play like favorites too.
What does this mean for City’s visit to Liverpool, a match that looks like such a potential stalemate that there almost is no Vegas favorite? Well, while the British press may be crying the blues (or the Reds) over the embarrassing fall to Napoli, that result simply doesn’t have a lot to do with how Sunday’s gigantic match is going to go. In fact, some of Liverpool’s best may have simply been looking forward to City despite the constant coaching effort to avoid that psychology. The squads are tied for tops in the EPL. Of course players will feel a sense of anticipation more than 3 days out.
For his part, Klopp doesn’t think the Wednesday loss will hurt much at all.
Though the Sky Blues are star-studded and may have the superior depth chart, I’m liking Liverpool to prevail at home on Sunday.
Kevin de Bruyne and Benjamin Mendy are ailing for the guests, who will see a much more focused group of Reds than the latter’s Champions League nemesis just did.
Take the Reds on the moneyline or ATS (Even).
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.